A new Golden rule

Roadshow, Chow join to bid for Harvest Ent.

SYDNEY — Hong Kong mogul Raymond Chow and Australia’s Village Roadshow have buried their differences and announced Monday that they are bidding for joint control of Golden Harvest Entertainment.

Village Roadshow said it had increased its holdings in the publicly listed film distribution and exhibition company to 25.27% after buying shares totaling 11.1% of the company, worth about $5.8 million, from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and from Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok.

Chow’s decision to sell new shares in the company he founded to Murdoch, Kuok and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing in June triggered a lawsuit by Village Roadshow. Arguing the sale would hurt minority shareholders, VR said it wanted to take over Golden Harvest Entertainment.

After a Hong Kong court struck out VR’s claim July 10, VR managing director Graham Burke made two separate trips to Hong Kong to see Chow, whom he describes as a very good friend and a longtime business associate since the Australian company began distributing and exhibiting Golden Harvest films 25 years ago.

Those negotiations culminated in Monday’s announcement that Chow and Village Roadshow have formed an entity that holds 50.54% of Golden Harvest Entertainment, and VR is offering to buy all remaining shares for HK 60¢ per share, which values the bid at $23.4 million.

Burke, who becomes president of GHE while Chow continues as chairman, told Daily Variety this was the best possible time to buy equity in the Hong Kong company which, he said, was “at an all-time low ebb because the market is spooked about Asia.”

In a statement, Chow said, “All good marriages have disagreements. This one has been resolved most amicably and we have renewed our wedding vows.”

News Corp. and Kuok made a tidy profit of HK 10¢ a share on the deal, equivalent to about $480,000 apiece. Li Ka-shing elected not to sell his stake.

VR and GHE formed an exhib co-venture in 1992 that has since expanded to 197 screens in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and South Korea.

The new alliance also gives VR stakes in Malaysia’s Golden Screen Cinemas and in a partnership in Thailand between GHE and local exhib Mongkol.

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